Dear Reader,

Hope you are all well, I am testing my ‘sending procedure’ which I have not used since November and am betrayed by an 84 year old memory,

Spring approaches, sap rises, a young man’s thoughts turn to … as if I remember.

Rather more than two hundred years ago, horse-drawn boat traffic from the Somerset Coal Canal near Bath mostly loaded with coal, came to a halt at the bottom of the Caen Hill flight of locks.  For twelve years, while twenty-nine locks and their substantial side pounds were completed, a horse-drawn tramway operated beside a very muddy construction site.  A stone boundary wall survives at Lower Foxhangers Farm for a short distance and is heavily overgrown with deformed trees choked with Ground Ivy, their twisted branches show the struggle to reach sunlight. The wall has been squeezed and pushed aside by the immense force of expanding tree trunks for unknown decades.  Now the wall is being assessed for potential recovery and repair; the more we see the more daunting it appears.  I am beginning to wonder if I should have started this.

Winter at Foxhangers is busier than might be expected because all of the hire boats need freshening up after a busy summer during 2022.  The painting programme alone has to repair accidental scrapes and scratches on eighteen very long boats, some of them sixty-nine feet long.  Our paint dock accommodates two at a time, but the full process still needs an awful lot of weeks.

But this newsletter is mainly about books!

King’s Mercy published before Christmas, is the sequel to White Clyffe which takes place in Wiltshire and the West of England during the ugly years when the King’s forces were working to gain control during the Peasant’s Revolt.  The new book is already selling well in the United States and has a prominent listing on Amazon.  Search for King’s Mercy but please do not use the ISBN number for an Amazon search, because they have their own system.  Printed books can also be ordered through your local bookshop using the ISBN number 978-1-80381-062-1 or phone me on 01380 827 800 for a better price.

White Clyffe, my first attempt at writing fiction, traces the ups and downs of a Wiltshire village family during a very turbulent century.  Five disastrous harvests in seven years have been described by economic historians as the worst famine in English recorded history. Worse was yet to come: the population was reduced by one third during the Black Death during the first wave of the disease.  Life in England was never the same again.  The balance of power had shifted in favour of the villagers.  Printed books can also be ordered through your local bookshop using the ISBN number 978-1-83975-557-6 or phone me on 01380 827 800.

The recommended retail price for King’s Mercy is £9.99 or if purchased direct from Foxhangers the price is £7.00 plus £2.10 post & packing if this is required.  White Clyffe retails at £7.99 or purchased direct from Foxhangers at £5.00 plus £2.00 post & packing.

Looking forward again at book number three, part written during lockdown, then recently extended to forty thousand words.  Second Revolution must be ready to submit to the publisher by late March if it is to be published well before Christmas.    This story is also set in the West of England, but it is a vanished England before the second world war, when unemployment seemed to be a persistent blight incurable by man or government.  Village life was transformed during the war and the long years of food rationing that followed.  During later years the pace of change accelerated; small farms struggled to adapt, though many more moved with the times and flourished.  My special thanks to close friends who have read the unfinished work with a clear pair of eyes and an un-cluttered brain, I am grateful for your friendly comments and advice.

Best wishes to you all,

Colin Fletcher

Dear Reader,

After a long, dry summer merging into a glorious autumn, the clocks have changed and suddenly the light evenings have gone.  So, your thoughts may turn to a quiet read of my second book King’s Mercy, which has recently been published.

This is set in the aftermath of the Peasant’s Revolt, dangerous times for anyone suspected of involvement in the rebellion.  For some of the villagers their comparatively peaceful routine was severely disrupted.  Escape routes from danger include a life at sea, a new life in Honfleur, or a beautiful daughter’s career as an escort in Bristol. Yet the core of the Johnson family remain loyal to their farming origins.

Further details of the new story can be found on the website at under ‘The Books’ with a link to Amazon.  If you prefer to order King’s Mercy from your local bookshops, you will need the book title and the ISBN number which is 978-1-80381-062-1; the ISBN number for White Clyffe is 978-1-83975-557-6.

The recommend retail price for King’s Mercy is £9.99 or if purchased direct from Foxhangers the price is £7.00 plus £2.10 post & packing if this is required.  White Clyffe retails at £7.99 or purchased direct from Foxhangers at £5.00 plus £2.00 post & packing.

I am now working on another story set in Wiltshire during the second World War and the years soon after and aim to have it ready to send to the publisher early next year.

My best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,

Yours, Colin Fletcher.

Dear Reader,

Glimpses of spring arrived early, and the lawnmower has been out a full month ahead of normal – most of the grass has been cut twice in March, probably an all-time record.  The hire-boats were out on the Kennet & Avon greeted by the first leaves of the weeping willow and pale primroses; an early dawn, pale skies and no wind, so far.  And now the tractor and Cambridge ring roller have repaired autumn damage to the campsite by the first days of April.

I do hope you have already managed to visit the website and have found something of interest.  Have you visited Bookshops of the West of England? You can enter their own websites and maybe find a book you have been looking for. The examples of bookshops were chosen to give a spread across the west-country, and I hope over time other bookshops will take up the offer to provide their details free of charge.

The second book, King’s Mercy is making its way through the publishing process and having survived the rigours of proofreading we have now received the first, full proof of the complete interior of the book.  So, this demands a slow and careful read from start to finish.

The new cover follows the theme of the first book but with an added suggestion of a threat hanging over the villagers, including the surviving members of the Johnson family.  The new book, a sequel to White Clyffe, begins with working people in the villages and country towns lying low as a furious and frightened young king hunts the active rebels and the organisers.

But active traders like Charles the clothier who travel widely to buy wool and to market their woven cloth had more to fear, they might easily be suspected of taking an active role in the Peasant’s Revolt.

Gentler members of my own family have mixed feelings about the new cover – I’ll be interested to know your opinion.

My best wishes for a peaceful year,

Yours, Colin Fletcher.


During the nineteen fifties, when the future of the Kennet & Avon Canal seemed to be precarious at best, Lower Foxhangers Farm was a quietly prosperous small dairy farm milking thirty cows, relying entirely on family labour.  But economic progress threatened the family.  Three sons moved away to try their luck in Australia. One returned after a few years.

Canal recovery was accelerating, canal owners British Waterways were stealthily supportive, modest funds and canal volunteers were making an impact.  Early farming experience was discouraging, but tourism and recreation were growing as family farming shrank, even in 1974.  A large empty farmhouse was slowly converted to provide low expectation holidays; year by year facilities improved.  Self-catering holidays and a small campsite were added.

Then in September 1985, canal narrowboats arrived at Foxhangers during a canal-busting boat rally by volunteer campaigners.  Five more years and the Queen opened the canal high on Caen Hill locks.  Already we were providing bank-side canal moorings for the accessible western waterway to Bath; now the sun was shining.  Shelley and Russell saw the future and said, “You should be running hire boats, you know.”

We replied, “No, you should be running hire boats.”

One boat became two; two boats became four. Twenty years later there are eighteen boats and a thriving boatyard.  An elderly grandfather, when not mowing the campsite and chatting to relaxed holiday visitors, enjoys his writing.  Writing leads to self-publishing and book-promotion; happy days, sunny days.

During 2021, I had my first experience with book publishing at any level.  I was initially attracted by the name of the publisher which reminded me of the Grosvenor Arms in Shaftesbury from schooldays of long ago and was soon captured by the clarity and simplicity of their description of the process, ‘I can do this, of course I can do this’.

During February, the text was sent to Grosvenor House Publishing with the preface and prologue as separate items and a list of characters was included within the text. An extract from the text relating John’s tender care for a new-born calf, inspired by a Countryfile story on spring lambing, was sent in mid-March as the back cover blog. Later, a Readers Response was included on the last page of White Clyffe with my email address for reply.

Becky at GHP had replied promptly with a number of suggestions; suggesting 5 x 8 inch black and white interior paperback with a full cover gloss finish cover and recommended using an indent for paragraphs and removal of the blank line between paragraphs that I had used.  She also said she would not recommend Comic Sans as a font.  I replied that I was not suggesting the main text in Comic Sans, only chapter and Title headings.  I accepted it was a bit quirky, but I liked it and we don’t want to be anonymous, do we?  She responded “Understood.”

Arrangements for book cover design were commenced during April.  Brian Jones sent me a selection of ideas for mediaeval scenes and a variety of typefaces on 47 pages of A4.  After a week of discussions, I made my choice, while asking for a look at a choice of typefaces and spacing.  Murmuring gently, I mentioned that I had expressed a liking for Comic Sans to Becky.  He responded gallantly, “Becky was quite right to be horrified. This is the Middle Ages, not the Beano and the Bash Street Kids”.

Completion of the cover design is the point of no return, when print files are ordered, triggering a process that will lead to a request from the publisher to distribute printed books.  The entire experience has been a stimulating journey, though likely to pale as I become engrossed in promotion and publicity. For any writer thinking of self-publishing, DIY promotion is likely to be the most formidable challenge.

White Clyffe was published and distributed before Christmas 2021, so effectively 2022 was the first full year of book sales and the mildly encouraging results were received shortly before Christmas.  Sales through the trade were supplemented by sales to family and friends.  Newsletters have been sent to a growing list of Good Names who have accepted to receive the newsletter by email.

Updated information relating to King’s Mercy was posted on the website by Simon Appleby who was extremely helpful in finding some descriptive information from Amazon.  Both of the book launches were supported by professional press releases from PR for books and further support from the same source will hopefully keep the book titles in the public eye during 2023.

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